I’m feeling confused about the rules, practices, and realities of tipping.

The kids have worked in food service jobs where tipping and “tipping out” were important to their life-style, even to their economic survival. ‘Course they were always welcome to come home, and at times — each did. One worked wait staff at a really amazing jazz club in NYC, and made more money in a year than I did — working as a government lawyer.

Today, I observed tipping in four settings: baggage handling, taxi ride, neighborhood luncheonette, and ethnic bar/dinner eatery. Bags seem to be per item, or by heft of handled items. The taxi credit card processor provided fares with a choice of tips — 15% or 20%. Then it calculated the tip and totaled the charge. Of course, there is always the possibility that you have 10% or 25% in mind — what happens then? And you never know if you came on the shortest route?

Food service is a whole other thing — it’s a big team: maître d’hôtel, wait staff, servers, table bussers, cashiers — no beverage? no dessert? “Awwww, Ma — leave a New York tip!”